Tigers Working on Details for the Opener

Comments from offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and Auburn players are featured in this Auburn football practice report.

Auburn, Ala.--After taking the day off on Monday, the Auburn Tigers were back on the football practice field for a 2 1/2-hour practice in full pads as they prepare for Saturday's season opener vs. Arkansas State.

Tiger players pointed out that their coaches were emphasizing the execution of the details of the game plan as the Tigers get ready for the Red Wolves. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said that was the case.

Commenting on the practice, Malzahn said, "There was some good. Any time you are giving being very specific you have high expectations. We need a couple more days of practice before Saturday gets here."

Malzahn, who doubles as the coach of the quarterbacks, will be sending newcomer Cameron Newton on to the field as his starter on Saturday night. Senior Mario Fannin pointed out that Newton has won the respect of his teammates with his work ethic and leadership ability.

Malzahn said that he likes what he is seeing from Newton. "We saw that early on and it had something to do with us naming him (the starter) in the spring because that was a big question--the leadership and the ability to make his teammates better and to respect him. They have definitely done that.

"He has worked hard and won his spot," Malzahn said." It is a matter of seeing how he is going to react in the heat of the battle, but I?really expect him to have a solid year."

Newton said after Tuesday night's practice that he is excited about the opportunity. "I feel like the luckiest man on Earth to be able to start for any Division I school. All praise and glory goes to God for giving me the strength to be in this situation."

Commenting on the offense, Newton said the Tigers are "absolutely" ready for opening night. "There are still some things we have to polish up on, but you can never be too polished going into a show so we are taking each day, one step at a time and trying to execute the game plan as much as we can."

At a tight end/wide receiver spots sophomore Philip Lutzenkirchen is at the top of the depth chart with senior Kodi Burns. Malzahn said both have had good preseasons.

Burns has plenty of starting experience, but for Lutzenkirchen Saturday's game will be his first collegiate start.

Commenting on Lutzenkirchen, Malzahn said, "He is doing a solid job. He looks like a different player than last year and he is not making the same freshman mistakes. He seems very eager and very hungry. He is a smart kid and is very talent."

Commenting on his role, Lutzenkirchen said, "You have to be physical and big enough to block big defensive ends in the SEC. You need to be quick enough to make plays out in space and block out in space. I think that is what me and Eric (Eric Smith) bring to this offense."

Since playing as a backup last season to Tommy Trott, who was a senior in 2009, Lutzenkirchen said he believes he has improved as a blocker, which will be an important role for him this year.

"I know that is going to help me get into the league (NFL)," he said. "That is what I need to do."

With opening night almost here, Lutzenkirchen said the offense is making strides in practice. "I think we have got in a lot better conditioning shape. Our pace has got a lot better and that is a key to our offense keeping constant pressure on the defense."

Philip Lutzenkirchen

Lutzenkirchen will often line up next to a new starter at right tackle, junior A.J. Greene. "He doesn't really show too much, he is kind of a quiet kid, but I?think he is pretty excited," Lutzenkirchen said.

Unlike Greene another new starter on offense, quarterback Cameron Newton, came into preseason drills as the heavy favorite to be a first string player. Lutzenkirchen said that Newton looks ready for the challenge.

"I see a leader, a playmaker," Lutzenkirchen said. "He is just a good guy in general, someone you want to be around. He helps out his teammates and I think he is going to be a big asset for our team this year."

Lutzenkirchen noted that it will be helpful to first-year starters like himself, Newton and Greene that the offense will be anchored by four returning starters on the line who are all seniors. "You look at our O-line up front and you have got over 130 starts behind them so that is pretty soothing for Cam as a quarterback," he said.

The defense struggled much of last season, but Lutzenkirchen is predicting a better performance for that group in 2010.

"They are going to be good,"?he said. "Up front you have got some of the four biggest linemen in the country...three really experienced linebackers in the SEC and you are getting Savage, McNeil and Etheridge back, which is going to be a huge help."

Senior Aairon Savage is expected to start at free safety after missing the last two years with injuries.

Senior Zac Etheridge is expected to start at strong safety after being lost during the 2009 season with a neck and spine injury. His backup, junior Mike McNeil, sat out last year with a broken bone in his leg.

Savage, Etheridge and McNeil each have extensive starting experience.

Last year Lutzenkirchen was an understudy to Trott. "Tommy just moved in to the other side of my little duplex," the sophomore said. "He is my neighbor and he is excited for me."

In other news:

*Senior Ryan Shoemaker found out Tuesday he will be the starting punter for the opening game. A backup the past two years after starting during his Freshman All-SEC season in 2007, Shoemaker said that he and freshman Steven Clark have made each other better in practice with a tight competition.

Shoemaker, who added that his goals are to get off his punts quickly, have at least 4.5 seconds of hang time and get the punt at least 38 yards down field, said he feels good about the way he has been punting the ball in practice.

*Tickets are available for Saturday night's game, which will kick off at 6 p.m. with television coverage by Fox Sports South. Tickets will be available on game day at the new ticket office at the Auburn Arena from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. at the Jordan-Hare Stadium ticket windows.

Ldarious Phillips

*Auburn goes into the game ranked 22nd in the AP poll and 23 in the coaches poll. The Tigers have been in the Top 25 to open the season for seven of the past eight seasons.

*Saturday's game will just be the second ever between the Tigers and Red Wolves in football. Auburn won 27-0 in 2006.

*Fullback Ladarious Phillips, who injured his ankle on the final play of the fourth preseason scrimmage, won't be able to play in the opener, according to head coach Gene Chizik.

*Chizik said that redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Derrick Lykes is out of action, too, and won't be back anytime soon. After suffering a leg injury in practice, surgery is a possibility for the former Chilton County High star.



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